By Neil Brown
Blessed winning at Olympic Park
you can be in the right place at the wrong time. Back on Sunday
October the 1st 1989 I headed to Bendigo
for the Qualifying trials of the Southern
Cross Network Maiden Series. The series was very popular in those
days and was the forerunner of the now very successful Vic Breeders
conducted by each and every Victorian club.
fastest qualifier that Sunday was a black bitch named Highly Blessed.
I remember watching the trial and commenting “wow” that bitch is
very smart. She recorded a quick 24.83, the benchmark at Bendigo
at that time for maidens was around
25.40. We had a bit of luck and both my two greyhounds qualified,
but you guessed it, in the first semi final a week later my dog
Camona Black was run down by the 5/2 on favourite Highly Blessed
in a time of 25.20. I was happy to have made the final while in
a later semi his sister Camona Lady ran the fastest time of the
night clocking 25.12. The final on October 16th saw Camona Lady
drawn box one, Camona Black box two and the 6/4 on, favourite Highly
Blessed in three.
a thrilling race Camona Lady led till half way up the straight when
Highly Blessed stormed past her to win easily in a best of the night
24.85. My other dog ran a handy fourth, can't be disappointed with
that I thought second and fourth. She'll probably finish up a fair
race dog that Highly Blessed, we all agreed on the three-hour trip
most trainers are like me you tend to follow the careers of dogs
that beat you in a maiden. Following the career of such a champion
turned out to be quite a pleasure. After that Bendigo
series I was lucky enough to become
quite friendly with Doug Ferremi. The likeable knockabout from Shepparton
had the perfect attitude and disposition to handle the baggage that
comes with racing an outstanding champion as Highly Blessed turned
out to be. As far as sprinters go there is no doubt in my mind she
was the best bitch I've have ever seen. Third on my all time list
behind Rapid Journey and Brett Lee.
a race career that spanned 55 starts producing 38 wins. She retired
on May 28,1992 Australia
's highest stake earner with $294,565.
At her peak between November 1990 and May 1991 she won six major
finals. Highly Blessed was successful in the Melbourne Cup winning
by seven lengths from box five, from Sandown she went to the Gabba
winning the XXXX Trophy over 558m on grass by 10 lengths, again
from box five. Fronted up at Angle Park
she won the Adelaide
Cup by seven and half-lengths from
box one. Then it was on to Sydney where she again beat the best
at Wentworth Park in the Golden Easter Egg final from box four over
520 metres on grass, winning by five lengths. All four majors or
group ones as they would be known today were won in the best time
of the night.
champ returned to Melbourne
to win both the Honda Trophy and Schweppes Cup. She astounded a
large crowd at Sandown two weeks in a row recorded seemingly impossible
times. She ran 29.89 solo between races the first time and a week
later 29.93 in the heat of the Honda. After attending Sandown weekly
since the late 60's I never thought I'd see a greyhound run under
30 seconds at the old track. It was an opinion shared by Doug Ferremi,
after the Honda heat win he remarked, “ I think she's a freak”.
Blessed was afforded ever accolade a greyhound of her greatness
was entitled. Among her many awards and victories “Josie” together
with Sandi's Me Mum are the only two greyhounds outside North America
to be selected by the WGF as one of the worlds best eight, for their
performances in 1990.
often pondered what she might have done to a Top Gun field at her
favourite track Sandown Park
during her devastating rein in late
Superstar Highly Blessed
can't do much more than turn up in the four major states of the
country, win their feature events, three from horror draws, on different
surfaces, over different distances. It was certainly a rare feat.
demeanour has remained the same as it did before, during and since
he raced Highly Blessed. A very modest and humble winner, gracious
in defeat. He and Lorraine
always felt special to have had the honour of breeding and racing
such a champion. Perhaps it was always meant to be and was reflected
so very well in her race name.
with greatness comes an enormous amount of media attention. Highly
Blessed had more than her share and at the time was a great promotional
tool for greyhound racing. She was featured on “A Current Affair”,
in the Womens Weekly and most daily papers around Australia
a brood bitch she produced a number of winners the best being Split
The Bill runner-up in the 1998 Australian Cup and now standing at
stud in Ireland .
modestly declares that in his opinion she was the best of her era.
There's no doubt the evidence above proves that statement to be
Blessed died on February 10th 1999 ,
Doug and Lorraine Ferremi who bred and raced the champion. Had to
make the tough decision to humanly put their pride and joy to sleep,
due to a deteriorating health condition to cancer.
She went down so quickly, I noticed she had gone off her tucker
about the second week of January and a visit to the vet revealed
a lump in her throat. She improved a little but it didn't last long
and she became unsteady on her feet. We went back to the vet's and
he informed us she would only get worst and suffer. Lorraine
and I couldn't bear to see her in any
pain and decided it was best to put her to sleep. Lorraine
and I have always felt so lucky to
have had the opportunity of racing one as good as she was. We brought
her home and buried her in the garden and we had a plaque made to
mark her grave.” Ferremi concluded.
February 1988 by Chariot Supreme from I'm Blessed, the little black
flying machine was honoured with induction to the AGRA Hall Of Fame
at the Meadows in Melbourne
in September 2000. It was a fitting reward for one of this country's
great champions and there were no prouder people present than Doug
and Lorraine Ferremi. For this writer it was also very special,
to have followed her as closely as I did, she will remain forever
a personal favourite, a champion that will bring back fond memories
for many years to come.
To return to the AGRA Hall of Fame click here